Beyond Apprenticeships: Addressing the Broken College-to-Career Transition

Experiential learning – whether formal trade programs or informal apprenticeships in which new hires learn from experienced professionals – serves as a solid platform for launching one’s career. However, apprenticeships are no panacea for ensuring a pipeline of early career talent.

Where apprenticeships fall short. Apprenticeships are heralded as a way to provide equitable access to professional roles. The reality is that, at best,they are subsidized training programs. At worst, they can limit career development. For example, in comparing AON’s apprenticeship program to its 10 month Launch Program for traditional campus hires, apprenticeships provide not only a different pathway into AON, but a separate career path.

While such programs provide an incredible opportunity for those who choose not to attend college, they don’t address issues facing college students and recent graduates who are filtered out based upon their school’s ranking, major, GPA, or limited professional network. And, apprenticeships aren’t scalable at the levels needed to create a system-wide change.

Early career recruiting and hiring inequity. The root cause of inequities in early career hiring is founded in an over-reliance on signals to predict success – major, GPA, academic institution ranking and network. Traditional internships initially emerged so companies wouldn’t need to rely on academic pedigree alone when making hiring decisions. Unfortunately, with an increasing reliance on summer internships as pathways to full-time roles, companies still rely heavily on these same academic pedigree and network signals when making those decisions, thus excluding most students from these precious few slots.

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Difficult to scale. Only 2% to 5% of college students and recent grads in the US are apprentices. And, apprenticeships comprise only 0.2% of the total US workforce. Given their uncertain funding and 10- to 24-month commitment, apprenticeships are difficult to scale. Beyond the risks associated with a poor fit, business needs fluctuate throughout the year, making it difficult to consistently engage a massive number of apprentices on top of traditional new hires – who also require significant training and onboarding. For example, compared to the 1,951 new college graduates hired by Accenture, the 27 apprenticeships offered through Apprenticeship 2020 represent less than 1.4% of its campus hiring (and that ignores the thousands of internships offered each year).

With companies competing for candidates and an average attrition rate of new hires during the first year hovering above 50%finding a scalable way to identify, engage, and assess candidates is crucial. The limited number of apprenticeships does little to help companies access untapped talent. Ironically, apprenticeship programs often eliminate large swaths of talent based upon academic pedigree – in Chicago, the 435 Chicago Apprenticeship Network participants come exclusively from City Colleges of Chicago, ignoring the 84,000-plus Chicago-area undergrads outside that network.

And, this doesn’t speak to the student’s perspective. While an apprenticeship or a summer internship is high stakes for a company, the stakes are even higher for someone with a limited number of summers before accepting a full-time job. As a result, potential candidates may not even consider an apprenticeship or traditional internship opportunity given that they are unsure whether it is the right industry, company, and role.

Better solutions. The challenge presented by apprenticeships – and traditional internships – is one reason we are seeing an increasing acceptance of other experiential recruiting initiatives. While many different models exist, the best examples provide companies with opportunities to engage college students on short-term, professional projects. By lowering the company’s stakes and commitment, HR professionals expand their reach beyond traditional talent pools, more effectively assess candidates earlier in the process, and offer an on-demand resource to hiring managers.

Every HR leader has projects that arise throughout the year that would benefit from an extra resource who could conduct preliminary research, create a first draft, or provide an outside perspective. By allowing a college student to lend a hand, not only are you providing a hiring manager with an extra resource and demonstrating your appreciation for these skills, you’re also gaining and assessing a potential candidate.

MORE: How technology affects candidate intake

Jeffrey Moss

Jeffrey Moss
Jeffrey Moss is the founder and CEO of Parker Dewey LLC, a company focused on addressing the challenges associated with college-to-career transitions through micro-internships.

Jeffrey Moss

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